EU court rules against Poland over judicial appointments

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The EU’s top court ruled on Tuesday that Polish rules allowing the justice minister to assign judges to higher criminal courts or to remove them without stating reasons violated EU law.

The case arose after a Polish court asked whether the Polish government’s ability effectively to second one of three judges to a panel ruling on criminal cases or to terminate a secondment infringed the requirement for judicial independence.

The Polish court said the secondments and terminations were not based on predefined legal criteria and the latter did not have to be accompanied by a statement of reasons.

The Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) said that rules related to secondments must provide necessary guarantees to prevent a risk of them being used as means of exerting political control over judicial decisions.

Poland’s nationalist government is involved in a series of disputes with the EU regarding issues such as the rule of law and judicial reforms that critics say undermine the independence of the judiciary.

In October, the CJEU ruled Poland must pay 1 million euros a day in fines for maintaining a disputed disciplinary chamber for judges.

The decision strengthens the European Parliament’s position, with MEPs taking a strong stand on the issue. Last month, they strongly insisted that the Polish Constitutional Tribunal lacks legal validity and independence, and is unqualified to interpret the country’s constitution. In a resolution, MEPs had said the Tribunal has been transformed “into a tool for legalising the illegal activities of the authorities”.

MEPs stressed that, according to Poland’s constitution, the EU Treaties, are directly applicable in its legal order, and have precedence in the event of a conflict with domestic law. They had accused the Polish prime minister of “further misusing the judiciary as a tool to achieve his political agenda” and said that Poland remains voluntarily bound by the Treaties and the case law of the EU Court.

via Reuters, European Parliament

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